Sexual Selection (was re: the term "eugenics")

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sat Aug 25 2001 - 10:53:32 MDT

Eliezer's gloss on sexual selection is much too negative. It implies
it's usually subject to hijacking, rather than usually based on
that is not a "cheap signal". (Robin, is there an accepted term for the
opposite of a cheap signal?)

I think all the examples referred to in the gloss (antlers, peacock's
intelligence) have been justified reasonably well as expensive signals
are good fitness markers. If they were not so, it's likely that the
process Eli described would have been able to hijack the signals, and
end up
driving the species extinct. Doesn't the fact that these species
continue to
survive give us some reason to believe that sexual selection, while
stupid, isn't destructive in the observed cases?

Of course, we don't know how many cases there have been in which a runaway
process of sexual selection process *was* hijacked, ending up in a
species or
sub-species disappearing. But I don't know of any evidence that this is
common, or more prevalent than the benign or useful effect. Eliezer,
made you decide to present this topic in such a negative light?


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